Traditional Bluegrassby Vern Williams
Bluegrass played by contemporary musicians but embodying a classic feel is a rare commodity these days. Slickness, pop crossover tendencies, and a reliance on technical virtuosity seem to be the order of the day, instead of authentic expression. Vern Williams and his band, on the other hand, are the real thing. This album of vibrant live recordings captures the
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Time - 44:48 -- Anyone who ever attended the California Bluegrass Association’s bluegrass festivals in Grass Valley, Ca. back in the 1980s will recall that hard-driving traditional band that always got the crowd listening with rapt attentiveness. With half of these sixteen cuts recorded at that festival on June 19, 1982, we are treated to charged-up presentations that capture the energy of the festival moment with The Vern Williams Band playing old Wilburn Brothers, Bill Monroe, Vern & Ray, Ruby Rakes, Bailes Brothers and public domain tunes. The other eight cuts come from 1984 and 1988 recordings in Vancouver, B.C., Berkeley and Grass Valley, Ca. The band includes Vern Williams (mandolin, vocals), Del Williams (guitar, vocals), Keith Little (banjo, vocals), Ed Neff (fiddle), and Kevin Thompson (bass). The Sawtooth Mountain Boys’ Mike Eisler plays a twin fiddle with Neff on track two, Bill Monroe’s “Close By” which recreates that classic multiple fiddle sound that Gordon Terry, Red Taylor and Charlie Cline did back in 1954. Many bluegrass fans have decried the recent slick, contemporary bluegrass products being produced with “wart-less” studio sounds and top session musician accompaniment. For a treasure trove of down-home tradition with vengeance, I would recommend this album that has been assembled from various historic two-track tapes. This is the kind of spine-tingling bluegrass that has remarkably powerful spirit and endurance. Originally from Newton County, Arkansas, bluegrass legend Vern Williams moved to California nthe 1950s. He may be best known for his historic 1960s Starday recordings with Ray Parks. Their Stockton, Ca.-based duo featured Vern Williams (mandolin) and Ray Park (guitar, fiddle). After meeting in Stockton in 1959, Very and Ray formed a band called the Carroll County Country Boys. They recorded several singles. Herb Pederson played banjo with them. After they broke up in 1974., Vern formed The Vern Williams Band. Ray Park worked with numerous west coast bluegrass and country bands, recorded a solo fiddle album called “Fiddletown” in 1982, and died on May 15, 2002. The Vern Williams Band made a big splash in the 1980s, and their “Bluegrass from the Gold Country” album (Rounder CD-131) is a classic collector’s item. The band also backed Rose Maddox on two other albums. Any true blue hardcore fan of the classic bluegrass sound will jump with joy after hearing this album, “Traditional Bluegrass” released by Arhoolie Records. It’s a wholly absorbing project, as well as fascinating documentation of some great traditional bluegrass music performed in California in the 1980s. (Joe Ross, staff writer, Bluegrass Now)